Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions look to rebound against Ohio State

Penn State center Candice Agee can hardly believe the women’s basketball season is almost finished.

Starting with a 7 p.m. clash with Ohio State on Thursday, the Lady Lions have just two regular-season games left before the Big Ten Tournament begins on March 4.

“As slow as it went, it went extremely fast,” the 6-foot-6 junior said with a chuckle before Wednesday’s practice. “It’s weird. It’s like the Twilight Zone. It’s going really slowly in terms of I’m so sore and then it’s like, ‘Wait, we’re almost done. Are you sure? Are you sure we don’t have anything left?

“It is crazy. ... Now I understand why seniors tell me to enjoy it because it goes by really fast.”

With such little time remaining, the Lady Lions (6-21 overall, 3-12 Big Ten) are looking to finish strong, especially after playing their worst Big Ten game on Monday. The Lady Lions shot just 30 percent in a 65-34 loss to No. 5 Maryland.

“We feel like throughout the whole season we’ve gotten better every single game,” Agee said. “We kind of hit a stumble on Monday. The biggest thing for us is to get back on track.”

The Lady Lions are anxious to get back on the court.

Peyton Whitted doesn’t mince words about the loss.

“I look it as motivation because we know we can play better than that,” the sophomore forward said. “... I think we’re all pissed off. We watched a lot of film on the game and talked about it. Our goal was to get better at the end of the conference and we took a few steps back that game.

“We really want to make sure these last two games we finish strong and get ready for the Big Ten Tournament. So we’re all motivated and pissed off and we’re going to play like we’re pissed off on Thursday.”

The thing that angered the Lady Lions was how many open layups they missed against the Terrapins.

“It was just an off night,” said Agee, who led the Lady Lions with 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting. “It happens to everybody. I don’t remember a night where we’ve missed that many layups. Usually, we finish really well in the paint.

“... It was a little embarrassing,” she added. “That’s not how we want to show ourselves at any point. We know can play better than that. We know we are better than that. Maryland is not 30 points better than us. The fact that happened, we were really disappointed in ourselves.”

Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington said she won’t dwell on the loss, which also featured 22 turnovers.

“That was one of those performances where you don’t analyze it to much,” Washington said. “We didn’t play well. We’re better than that. We’ve played better that. We had a bad night on a lot of levels. We’re ready to prepare for Ohio State. We’ve put that behind us.”

Ohio State (19-9, 11-5) gives Penn State plenty of concern. The Buckeyes have won eight of 10, including Saturday’s 100-82 blowout of then No. 13 Iowa.

Kevin McGuff’s club is lead by super freshman Kelsey Mitchell, who leads all of Division I with a 24.6 scoring average. Mitchell has incredible range and has made 104 3-pointers — which is 35 more than entire Penn State team.

“She has such range,” Whitted said of Mitchell. “You’ve got to guard her way beyond the 3-point line. That’s definitely someone we’re not used to playing every night, but we’re well aware of her.”

Junior Ameryst Alston averages 20.4 points per game and freshman Alexa Hart averages 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds. The Buckeyes defeated Penn State 69-60 earlier this season.

“They usually play with four guards on the floor and those four guards are pretty explosive,” Washington said. “It starts with Kelsey Mitchell. She is just a phenomenal player and she drives them. I don’t think you can stop her, but trying to slow her down is something you have to be mindful of.”

The Lady Lions played that contest in Columbus without leading scorer Lindsey Spann, who averaged 14.3 points off the bench.

“Ohio State is really good and has really good players,” Agee said. “Obviously, they have one of the best players in the Big Ten. The last time we played them we lost by nine and we didn’t have our point guard. Taking that into account and how much better we are from then, it makes us feel like this is going to be a really good game.”

The Lady Lions say the final two games are important heading into the Big Ten Tournament. They know they are going to be one of the bottom four seeds, but could finish anywhere between No. 11 and No. 14.

“I think it’s more important to make a statement rounding out the season to end in a good place, to let our conference as a whole know that we’re going to be ready to compete in the Big Ten Tournament,” Agee said.

“We just want to get better and let people know that we’re not going to be an easy team to just run over,” Whitted said. “We’re going to be coming in to compete and to win.”

Notes: Penn State is 36-23 all-time against the Buckeyes, including 19-6 at home. ... Hart is shooting 70.6 percent (48 of 68) over her last eight games. ... Mitchell (690) is fifth on the single season points list for Ohio State. ... The Buckeyes are averaging 80.3 points per game, more than 17 better than Penn State (62.9).